Import Classic Cars into the US
According to law, automobiles older than 25 years old do not face importation restrictions. Those younger must be assessed as importation eligible before they can be transported into the country by an auto shipping company.
Antique and classic automobiles are not subject to DOT (department of transportation) and EPA (environmental protection agency) safety and pollution requirements. Any vehicle older than 21 years old doesn’t need to comply with EPA requirements when it enters the country. Such automobiles need not comply with FMVSS (federal motor vehicle safety standards) either. It should be noted on the HS 7 form under box 1 for you to give it to customs when importing classic cars into the US. You can find this form at https://icsw.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/
The 25 year period is considered starting with the day your automobile was manufactured. If this is not present in the form of a label fixed permanently to your automobile by the manufacturer, you can confirm the age of your automobile to customs with the available paperwork, like an invoice containing the date on which your automobile was sold for the first time or a document stating your automobile was registered more than 25 years ago.
In the absence of such documents, you may be able to procure a statement from a historical automobile society confirming the age of your vehicle.
Upon entry, the auto transport company must file a 3520-1 EPA form (with an attachment containing a title copy and other necessary documents) with CBP. CBP can remove this condition for citizens of other countries travelling to the United States on a temporary basis in Canadian or Mexican registered automobiles who do not intend to sell the automobile. You can obtain this form by contacting the EPA at 734-214-4100.
Please note the following:
- If your vehicle is subject to DOT requirements due to it being over 25 years old (you can confirm this with the same documents used for the EPA), the one importing classic cars into the US should verify the HS-7 block stating the automobile does not have to meet DOT requirements to enter the country.
- If the automobile is young enough for DOT requirements to apply to it, you will have to bring proof that it complies to the department’s safety regulations. You can use the sticker on the driver’s door inside stating the vehicle was built according to United States Standards or a letter procured from the manufacturer confirming it meets DOT requirements.
- If you cannot prove your automobile respects DOT requirements, you will have to import it through a RI (registered importer). To import antique or classic automobiles, you have to pay a duty rate of 2.5%, based on the vehicle’s worth when importing it. If you can provide a valid proof of your vehicle’s Canadian origin, you may be exempt from paying duty.
RoRo vs. Container Shipping
If you pick RoRo shipping, your vehicle will be driven to the ship’s deck, where it will be safely strapped down during the duration of the trip. This method of shipping your vehicle overseas is less costly due to the possible risks perceived. Some vehicle owners believe their vehicles will get damaged due to exposure to weather and the sea environment. However, these worries are mostly unfounded as the vehicles are securely tied below deck with protective covers to protect them from the elements.
RoRo transportation permits the client to pick fixed arrival and departure dates. Regardless if you or your auto shipping company will be bringing the classic vehicle, it has to arrive at a specific, agreed upon time and date.
On the other hand, importing classic cars into the US using a sealed container decreases the risk of damage but is also more expensive. Since the container’s contents are hidden to all those involved in the transportation, chances a theft are also much lower.
If you’re importing classic cars into the US, you may choose between using an exclusive container for each one or shared container transport. Unlike RoRo transport, you may also ship spare tires and parts along with your vehicle, but arrival and departure dates may change due to circumstances.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.